Community coalition kicks off campaign to halt Belmont development

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Members of the Belmont Park Community Coalition marched along Hempstead Turnpike on Sunday to kick off a summer campaign. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

Eileen Prymaczek said when her hometown of Flushing started getting overdeveloped, nobody spoke out.

Prymaczek said she’s ready to speak out now to make sure the same doesn’t happen to her new home, Floral Park.

Floral Park’s suburban nature is being threatened by the proposed Belmont Arena project, according to Prymaczek and about two dozen other members of Floral Park and Elmont who kicked off their community campaign on Sunday afternoon.

Members of the Belmont Park Community Coalition marched along Hempstead Turnpike outside Belmont Park, to bring awareness about their concerns with the proposed development.

The campaign will “wake up residents” to know what the proposed project entails, said Tammie Williams, a community organizer from Elmont.

Demonstrators said the proposed development could make the area unsafe for children.
(Photo by Rebecca Klar)

“We want them to know that this project can be halted and we can get smart growth development,” Williams said. “Minimum wage jobs do not pay the rent, neither do they pay the mortgages.”

The project, approved in January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, proposes to create a 19,000-seat arena as well as a hotel and retail center.

Tammie Williams, a community organizer from Elmont, said the group is not against development – they’d just like to see smart development.

This isn’t the first time members of the community have opposed the project.

In December when two bids were presented to the community, a handful of residents, including Williams, demonstrated outside before the hearing stating the same concerns they continued to voice on Sunday.

Brad Schwartz, a Democratic candidate for New York State Senate District 7, said he’s heard overwhelming opposition from residents as he’s gone door to door.

Schwartz, a Port Washington resident, came out on Sunday to march with the community coalition.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the collective community voices of Floral Park and Elmont residents are not being heard,” Schwartz said. “There’s such strong opposition to the arena being built here and I think that people know their community better than the Empire State Development Corporation.”

The Empire State Development Corporation held two community input sessions in March and April at the Elmont Memorial Library.

Developers announced during the April meeting plans were tweaked in response to public concern, including limiting the hotel height to 150-feet and moving the electric Substation to not boarder the Bellerose Elementary School, according to Newsday.

Schwartz also said that the infrastructure doesn’t exist to support the arena development.

The already crowded Cross Island Parkway would likely cause Island-wide traffic issues with hockey games and concert events four times a week, Schwartz said.

Brad Schwartz, a Democratic candidate for state Senate, joined residents at Sunday’s rally with community organizer Tammie Williams. (Photo courtesy of Brad Schwartz)

People parking for events may also use residential streets to park, which they already do during the annual Belmont Stakes, Schwartz said.

Increase in traffic is also a safety concern for parents in the area, like Prymaczek.

Prymaczek said she likes the small-town feel of Floral Park, where she feels safe to let her kids walk across the street or to nearby neighbors.

The proposed development threatens that safety, she said.

The project is slated to be competed by 2021.

Though “cynics” say the project is a “done deal,” Norman Siegel, a New York civil rights attorney representing the community coalition, said Sunday’s kick-off was just the beginning of the campaign to stop the development.

“This is just a beginning of educating ourselves and all of the people in the neighborhood,” Siegel said.

The coalition plans on demonstrating again on June 9, during the Belmont Stakes.

 

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